October 15, 2012
Air Pacific plans to start scheduled service with its first two Airbus A330-200s in June, enabling the Fijian national carrier to begin replacing two leased Boeing 747-400s used on core long-haul routes.
Delivery of the first of the three A330s on order will occur in mid-March and the second in May, CEO David Pflieger tells Aviation Week. Pilot training, certification and other preparatory work will be required, and both aircraft will enter service in the same month that the first of the 747 leases expires.
The third A330 is scheduled to arrive in November, and the other 747 is due to be returned to the lessor in December, Pflieger says. The A330s initially will fly shorter sectors, but then will assume the 747 routes–from Nadi to Sydney, Auckland, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
Swapping the two 747s for three A330s will mean little change in net capacity, says Pflieger. The 747s carry about 450 passengers, and the A330s about 300 in a two-class configuration. Having three widebodies instead of two will allow for more frequencies, Pflieger says. Air Pacific has little flexibility with the 747s, and they make it difficult to match capacity with demand.
The A330s will be painted in the airline’s new livery, which was unveiled Oct. 10. Next year, the carrier will change its name to Fiji Airways, which Pflieger says will link the brand more closely to Fiji.
Buying the A330s represents “a dramatic change” for the airline, says Pflieger, as it will be the first time in Air Pacific’s 60-year history that the carrier has purchased new widebodies. Air Pacific’s mainline fleet also includes three Boeing 737-800s, and one -700, with only one of the -800s leased.
As with its 737s, Air Pacific will handle maintenance on the A330s up to A-checks, and outsource heavy maintenance. The engines are under a TotalCare deal with Rolls-Royce, and airframe work will be bid out. Haeco and SIA Engineering, which the airline already uses for other types, will both be “in the hunt,” Pflieger says.
Air Pacific previously had an order for eight Boeing 787-9s, but canceled it last year. Pflieger says the order was made when the economic outlook was much brighter. A major factor for selecting the A330s for a smaller order was that they could be obtained sooner, he says.